Can radio amateurs connect their computers across a wireless network? You bet. Firing data between ham stations is as old as the Morse Code. With the advent of Packet Radio Two popular ways to do it are D-RATS and HSMM-MESH. D-RATS is a lot like what Internet Relay Chat used to be. In its current iteration it is primarily a tool for exchanging text message, one to one, or one to many. D-RATS was designed to take advantage of D-STAR‘s low speed data capabilities, but many hams are connecting to D-RATS servers over the Internet, using them to practice exchange of messages to prepare for disaster communications scenarios. There are a number of D-RATS devotees around, but the favored client software has not been updated in over two years.
High Speed Multimedia (HSMM) is the ham radio version of WiFi. Channels 1-6 in the WiFi spectrum fall within the amateur bands. If you have a Technician or higher license, you can operate under Part 97 of the FCC rules, using higher gain antennas and more power than typical WiFi access points use under Part 15.
There is growing interest in using HSMM to create a Mesh Network, where wireless nodes are interconnected to exchange data at high speeds. The concept began as a solution for developing countries who don’t have robust wireline Internet connectivity. Installation of a number of Mesh Nodes in a neighborhood, with one linked to an Internet connection can provide access for everyone on the Mesh network.
In the amateur radio world, it’s possible for hams to create an HSMM go-kit, containing several Mesh Nodes and create a fully functioning high speed data network at a disaster site. In communities where HSMM-Mesh has become popular, dozens of nodes may be in peer to peer communication with one another, and hams may connect servers to the network to provide special services. Connecting to the Internet can be one of these services, but if you do it, you are responsible for making sure that all content that flows to and from your node falls within the guidelines of Part 97.
BBHN, who formerly called their organization HSMM-MESH, will kick-off a new project this weekend, focused on taking this technology to the next level. Comprised of the project manager, developers, and several of the testers who brought BBHN to the Ubiquiti line of wifi hardware, this team is geared to pick up where BBHN leaves off.
The Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network, or AREDN (“r-den”) has been chartered to provide the Amateur Radio Community with a quality solution for supporting the needs of high speed data in the Amateur Radio Emergency Communications field.
You can download the latest AREDN software release (3.0.2) from their website to explore an EMCOMM mesh implementation in your community.
There are a growing number of HSMM-Mesh resources out there.My Rocky Mountain Ham buddies maintain an HSMM Yahoo group with information about the latest developments. And here’s a good place to start your exploration.